In earlier posts I have mentioned the problem of Muslim immigration in Europe’s nations, as well as the retreat into spiritual and cultural relativism. Here is a more penetrating description of those and other aspects of these problem and how John Paul II addressed them.
Below is a quote from George Weigel’s work God’s Choice Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, (HarperCollins, 2005, first edition, pp 174-175.)
Much of Europe’s recent trends and problems are now surfacing in the USA. We may face the future described below. In any event, we are in for a wild ride.
“…. Europe, after twenty six years of Pope John Paul II, seemed even more deeply stuck in the cultural quicksand of a crisis of cultural civilizational morale. Its economies could not, in the main, keep pace with the United States and Asia. Its policies were becoming sclerotic, with major decisions being taken by bureaucrats or judges in Brussels, Strasbourg, or the Hague rather than by legislatures. One French political theorist, Pierre Manent, went so far as to say that Europe was suffering from “depoliticization”, a democracy-deficit in which the people of Europe appeared the acquiesce. Europe high culture, deep into its post-modern phase, seemed incapable of of calling anything the truth, and in the aftermath of 9/11 and the Madrid bombings, seemed disinclined to call radical evil by its name, either.
Most depressingly, and most urgently, Europe seemed to depopulate itself in a historically unprecedented way, thanks to generations of below-replacement-level birth rates that seemed perilously close to a form of demographic suicide, When the better part of an entire continent- wealthier, healthier, and more secure than ever before- declines to create the human future in the most elemental way, by creating the next generation, something is wrong. That “something” has. obviously, many dimensions, but to deny its spiritual dimension is to miss the heart of the matter. Europe, it seems, had become spiritually bored, its horizons desperately lowered. And, as the numbers made unmistakably plain, Europe was boring itself to death.
John Paul II tried to raise yet another warning flag about Europe’s malaise – and offer a positive program for Europe’s cultural revival – in one of the most impressive documents of the latter years of the pontificate: In Ecclesia in Europa [The Church in Europe], which was issued on June 28, 2003, to complete the work of the second special synod for Europe, held to help mark the Great Jubilee of 2000. In Ecclesia in Europa, the Pope suggested that Europe’s greatest need was not for a common currency or a new constitution but for hope: (the most urgent matter Europe faces, in both East and West, is a growing need for hope, a hope that will enable us to give meaning to life and history…(how did Europe’s loss of hope display itself? In “a kind of practical agnosticism and religious indifference whereby many Europeans give the impression of living without spiritual roots… something like heirs who have squandered a patrimony…;” In a “fear of the future”; in the “inner emptiness that grips many people”; in a “selfishness that closes individuals and groups in upon themselves”; and, of course, in “the diminished number of births.”
Europe was also suffering from self-inflicted historical amnesia, in which Christianity’s contributions to the formation of a Europe of tolerance, civility, human rights, democracy were being denied. Yet, as John Paul insisted, it was from “the Biblical conception of man [that] Europe drew the best of its humanistic culture, found inspiration for its artistic and intellectual creations, created systems of law and, not least, advance the dignity of the person as the subject of inalienable rights.” A Europe seizing its opportunities rather than squandering them would have to reclaim its roots. For the denial of those roots had created a false story about Europe’s past and present, and that false story was threatening Europe’s future.